HAVING a glorious back catalogue of driving machines can be both a blessing and a curse, especially if you've not managed to capture the brilliance of an early model and spend decades trying to better it. Thankfully this is not a problem that has befallen BMW's M Sport division. It turns 40 this year, and the first product to rumble menacingly into view is the M6.
Just like the outgoing car the latest M6 has a lot to thank the contemporary M5 for. Under the pumped-up bonnet you'll find the same 4.4-litre twin turbocharged powerplant that manages to deliver crushing top-end power with serious low down torque plus the seven-speed M double clutch transmission that can handle both urban cruising and flat out quick shifts. It also has the Active M Differential and even in standard guise has the M button feature that allows you to tailor the car depending on your driving style.
But the M6 signals its intent much earlier than that. It takes the standard 6 Series Coupe look and adds considerable extra menace. At the front there are deeper and wider air intakes, while the traditional kidney grille has a discreet M badge within. The M6 has a wider track than the standard car too so there are wider wheel arches to house them. It does no harm to the looks either. At the back you get the quad exhaust pipes and a tasty diffuser, while the roof panel is carbonfibre to shave weight and move the centre of gravity closer to the ground; small details that help to create a car that is clearly meant for the serious business of driving.
Climb inside and the M6's cabin is spacious but snug; you sit low down and sandwiched comfortably between the door and the transmission tunnel. Such is the massive haul of technology and gadgets it's worth spending a few minutes getting everything set up just so; the head-up display, the electric seats and of course the standard Dynamic Damper Control, steering and DSC settings. An added bonus on the M6 is a new steering wheel design, which manages to pack in the numerous buttons into a lovely three-spoke design, and also manages to avoid having a rim that is too thick; ideal for passing on messages from the front wheels and a joy to look at.
But before you get that twisting B-road you'll have to manage some urban crawl and maybe a bit of motorway cruising, tasks which present no problem at all for the M6. With everything switched into Comfort mode it demands no more of you than a regular 6 Series - in fact it's as comfortable as virtually any BMW product and should you choose to be a miserable so-and-so you could drive around in it like this all the time, using less than half the available power and getting the quoted 28.5mpg combined. More fool you.
Prod the M button once and you switch up into Sport mode for the engine, steering, gearbox and suspension (or other specific settings if you choose to modify them) and there's an instantaneous tightening of the whole car as it primes itself for action. There's extra eagerness in the throttle response, calling up the turbos more readily and as you push on the gearbox changes down more readily and holds the gears for longer. You can go further too, into Sport+ mode for the snappiest gearchanges, weightier steering and a looser setting for DSC. Helpfully you can set your own preferences too, if you want the lighter steering but everything else turned up to the max for example.
Regardless, when pressed the M6 throws off the notion of being a big and heavy GT and responds with real vim to the driver's inputs. That big V8 has masses of torque and ploughs forward with utter relentlessness. The massive carbon brakes shed the speed just as readily and won't wilt under prolonged use, while the suspension ties the car down firmly, coping with bumps and turns with excellent composure.
BMW even let us play with the M6 around Ascari, the notoriously-tricky racetrack in southern Spain. With a mix of high and low-speed bends and plenty of undulations it's a proper test - one which the M6 positively monstered. It feels like a much smaller car, never struggling to stay in control and should you want to play the hooligan (which you will) it is laughably controllable and benign.
No M6 is ever going to be cheap, but by the same measure you get an awful lot of car for your money. And despite the parts sharing there is a distinct character from the M5 saloon, with the M6 feeling more like a unique car in its own right rather than a very hot 6 Series Coupe. The only remaining decision therefore is to choose this, or the M6 Cabriolet...
FACTS AT A GLANCE
BMW M6 Coupe, £93,795
Engine: 4.4-litre petrol V8 producing 552bhp and 501lb.ft of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch gearbox driving the rear wheels
Performance: Top speed 155mph (limited), 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds
Economy: 28.5mpg combined
Emissions: 232g/km of CO2